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observing Efficiently…

by | Jan 21, 2021 | observe

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When I was a small baby, my parents were out visiting Mom’s folks in Lubbock, Texas.  My Grandmother kept babies in her home for much of her life, and as such knew a lot about them, and had other resources that she would draw on.  One of her friends had a method of observing the bumps and mounds on a small baby’s head and determining their life plan and purpose.  What she said about me was about to come to tested as I sat in the counselor’s office as a rising 9th grader… 

High on the Plains as it is called, Lubbock sits at nearly 5000 feet – and flat as a pancake as far as the eye can observe.  As glaciers came down from the north, they ground all the bumps and mounds into what is some of the richest earth on the planet running north all the way to Canada. Farming and agriculture were all around and why my Grandfather had settled in the ’30s to start his career as a college professor.  It provided an Efficient income for his small family, while also allowing him to farm on the side, his real passion.

Ray and the band were starting to really generate some interest including continuing to Efficiently release albums regularly.  He was excellent at observing older songs from the ’30s and repurposing them into the ’70s, and that got them a very loyal following.  But… not much money.  They were on the road continuously, but those loyal fans could barely support the 7 players that had become the heart of the music he loved.  In 1978, their new album actually finally received a Grammy nomination….

.. and observe the “other” music that won Grammy awards:  Saturday Night Fever, Just the Way You Are, Steve Martin – Wild and Crazy Guy, Barry Manilow’s Copa Cabana.  The closest to their music was Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson, but even The Gambler was a bigger hit that year.  And yet, here they were with a nomination for the Best Country Instrumental for their remake of a Count Basie song from the ‘30s.  

It would be great, except… “We were in Lubbock, playing a bar called the Eight Second Ride, which is, you know, about bull riding,” Benson said. “Things weren’t going very well, and the road manager comes in after the thing and says, ’Ray, they haven’t got the money. … We’re going to empty out the pool tables and the Coke machine.”  Benson was sitting on the bus “not very happy” when someone knocked on the door and said, “Hey, y’all just won a Grammy in Los Angeles.”  They were too broke to go to the ceremony… 

In my case, 12 years earlier the woman had observed “This boy will be a great judge someday”.  A very Efficient pronouncement… that was now repeated to the counselor, who observed, “He should get into speech and debate if he wants to get into the Law”.  And there it was, I was off on the path to start speaking in public, starting with an oratory concert later that year.  

The small junctions in your life can take you in lots of different directions.  Efficient can be a path that evolves, or meanders, or is thoughtful.  Many will have ideas and “advice” for you which will sound very definite – ‘You should _____” or “You are _______”.  In my work with leaders, we are often meeting because the path is much less clear… or Efficient.  Many have started to observe that the road up hasn’t actually gotten them where they want to be… which of course, was never really thought about.  It would just be obvious as things would evolve and develop…until they don’t. Like Ray deciding to breathe life into these older songs – fun, but would it really result in anything? It was different for sure, but would it sustain him and others? 

I am pretty sure I never saw that woman again, but I did notice that having others around you that DO know you, and the bumps in your own road (or head) is very helpful. There is value in having someone observe you from a little distance, to give you insights you might miss.  And this year I have learned that help most, those insights work best when they pull you 5 or 10 years down the road and help your “head” get into a more creative and generative state.   

Ray would continue, eventually winning 8 Grammys and being nominated 20 times. My new path forward would also fit me well, becoming an integral part of who I was becoming.  Not perfectly Efficient, but again as I would observe many years later, no one has that nailed in their teens.  As we all celebrate the New Year, and the new beginning, what will it bring for you?  What steps will you take to think about observing the path that may or may not be less traveled – if that is even good advice 😉  And who do you have in your corner to help you with their own keen observations? Ray and the boys have something to cheer you on – no lyrics, but enough energy from their Grammy award winner from 1978 to get you started… the One O’Clock Jump

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